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Department Examinations

Piano Proficiency Exam

Relevant to: All Music Majors.

The Piano Proficiency Exam at the Cal State East Bay Department of Music assesses competencies that demonstrate basic functionality at the keyboard, appropriate to a Bachelor of Arts student in Music.

In order to graduate, all CSUEB Music students must pass the Piano Proficiency Exam OR complete four (4) semesters of group keyboard study. All music students are required to complete Basic Keyboard I (MUS 118A) and Basic Keyboard II (MUS 118B).

The most efficient way to complete the Piano Proficiency requirement is to enroll in Intermediate Keyboard I (MUS 218A) and Intermediate Keyboard II (MUS 218B). Students who pass Intermediate Keyboard I and Intermediate Keyboard II with a minimum grade of C are not required to take the piano proficiency exam.

While some students elect to work on proficiency requirements independently, it is highly discouraged and may significantly delay graduation. Students not enrolled in Intermediate Keyboard I or Intermediate Keyboard II who wish to demonstrate their mastery of proficiency items may only do so during the fall and spring Final Exam period.

Contact Dr. Shimron at least 14-21 days in advance to schedule the exam.

Please follow the guidelines and use the examples below to prepare for the Piano Proficiency Exam. All examples are taken from Alfred’s Group Piano for Adults, 2nd Ed., (Lancaster, 2004)

Harmonization and Transposition:
  • Students will be asked to play two (2) harmonizations and transpose each one.
    • Harmonization No. 1 will contain a melody with no given chords. Students will need to choose and play tonally appropriate chords in LH while playing the melody in the RH, followed by a transposition to a different key. Chords should be derived from primary triads (I, IV, V7), with a logical progression that builds on the common practice Phrase Model. Students will need to play chords in LH (blocked or broken) while playing the melody in the RH, followed by a transposition to a different key.
    • Harmonization No. 2 will contain a melody with given chords in the form of lead-sheet symbols (pop/chord symbols) or Roman numerals. Students will need to play chords in LH while playing the melody in the RH, followed by a transposition to a different key. Chords may contain diatonic and chromatic chords (secondary dominants, etc.)
  • Prepare the following examples or equivalent examples with prior approval of Dr. Shimron.


  • Choose one of the excerpts below or another excerpt of equal or greater difficulty.
  • Sing the melody on (a) neutral syllable (“la”) or (b) solfège or (c) text/lyrics.
  • Play an accompaniment throughout based on the pattern at the beginning of the song
  • Use appropriate harmonies based on the chord symbols and use a variety of chord inversions.
  • Accompaniment must match the character of the song

Sight Reading

  • Students will be asked to sight-read excerpts at the difficulty level of the examples given below. Excerpts might be in major or minor keys.
  • Students will have one minute to silently study the example before playing.
  • Play with an emphasis on continuity. Rhythm is more important than pitch here.
  • Choose one piece of equal or greater difficulty compared to the examples below. You must obtain prior approval from Dr. Shimron for any substitutions. Prepare and perform, paying attention to the grading criteria listed below. Memorization is not required.
  • Note accuracy
  • Fingering accuracy
  • Harmonic accuracy (harmonizing melodies with tonally appropriate chords)
  • Rhythmic accuracy
  • Tempo appropriateness
  • Pulse stability
  • Expression and musicality: including dynamics, articulation, tone quality, etc.
  • Technique: including hand position, posture, etc.
  • Continuity
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